Johann Gabriel Drechsler

«Sagen ist eine leichte Sache, aber machen ist ihnen trefflich schwer»

(«Easier Said Than Done»)

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M. Gabriel Drechslers Curiöser und lesenswürdiger Tractat von Goldmachen. Frankfurt and Leipzig, bei Christoph David Meltzern, 1751.

This short treatise by the theologian Johann Gabriel Drechsler († 1677) is the German translation of his Latin writings «De Metallorum Transmutatione» which appeared in 1673. The translation, though, did not see the light of day until 1702. In the Introduction to his treatise, Drechsler writes that his age has been dominated by the search for gold. The reason was to gain esteem and attention of women, as the Latin poet Ovid had already noted: «Wer Geld hat, kann bald zu hohen Ehren kommen, und beim Frauenzimmer angenehm sein.» [Someone who has money will soon achieve eminence and please womankind]. Drechsler describes the traditional way of extracting gold by seeking and digging «tief in der Erde verborgene[n] Metalle» [metals hidden deep in the earth] and decries the «unerhörte Art» [outrageous practice] of making gold, namely the transformation of base metal into gold as practiced by the alchemists. He denounces the alchemists as charlatans who deceive not only themselves with their promise of producing gold, but also all those who believe them. Never in history, says Drechsler, has anyone actually succeeded in transforming base metal into precious gold. But many have driven themselves and others into extreme poverty with this practice. Citing numerous sources, Drechsler endeavors to refute the ideas of the alchemists, whom he decries as «unchristlich» [un-Christian] – for only God is able to effect such an essential transmutation of nature, and not man. At most, man will succeed in altering the surface of a metal with the help of chemistry and alchemy so that it looks more precious, but not its essence. Gold-colored silver is after all still only silver and not gold. Drechsler thus concludes that if this art of making gold were possible, the alchemists would have long been successful – it's easier said than done.